Child Support Computer Systems: A Summary of Current and Proposed Federal Requirements

August 01, 1996 | Vicki Turetsky


Although Congress and states have made sweeping changes to paternity and support enforcement laws, national child support collection rates have only modestly improved over the past decade.[1] State child support programs have not been able to make much headway in large part because of their difficulty in fully automating their child support processes. Without statewide automation, federal and state legislative changes have had only a limited impact on child support outcomes.

In 1988, Congress required states to implement comprehensive and statewide automated data processing and information retrieval systems by October 1, 1995. These systems, funded with 90% federal dollars, are subject to federal review and must meet extensive federal criteria in order to be certified. Over the past seven years, states have committed major staffing and financial resources to their automation efforts. However, most states do not yet have fully operational systems. In September 1995, Congress extended the computer deadline by two years when it became clear that states could not meet the original October 1, 1995 deadline.

At the same time Congress extended the computer deadline, it advanced comprehensive welfare legislation that would require states to significantly expand the capacity and functions of their computer systems. In July 1996, both houses passed the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996," which includes major changes to state child support laws and requires states to create several new data bases and interfaces.[2] New child support provisions may further strain state systems development.[3]

The provisions of new welfare legislation would impact state computerization efforts in several direct and indirect ways. Some provisions would specifically require additional child support systems or system enhancements. Other provisions modifying child support and other welfare policies would require smaller system adjustments. However, nearly every child support provision depends upon state automation capacity and would require major or minor changes to state computer programs.

This summary includes both a brief history of federal computerization laws and a general description of current computer certification requirements and new requirements proposed in recent welfare legislation. It also includes a general discussion of federal funding requirements. The summary is by no means comprehensive, but is intended as a non-technical primer for policy-makers, administrators and advocates trying to understand the basics of computer certification and funding.

Child Support Computers:

A Summary of Current and Proposed Federal Requirements

A Brief History of State Child Support Computerization

In 1980, Congress authorized enhanced federal funding to encourage states to develop and install child support computers.[4] This was part of a larger sustained federal effort to automate major human services programs, including Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medicaid, Food Stamps, Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS), child welfare, and child care.[5] Congress believed that state information systems would provide better program management and expedite coordination among programs and across jurisdictions.[6]

Under the 1980 law, 90% enhanced federal matching was offered on an open-ended basis to states electing to implement a statewide automated data processing and information retrieval system in their child support program. Enhanced federal funding was available for the costs of developing, installing and enhancing approved state systems. Beginning in 1984, computer hardware costs and costs to automate income withholding also qualified for enhanced federal funding.[7] System development costs that did not conform to federal specifications - those that were not statewide or did not meet the functional specifications - and operating costs were reimbursed at the regular matching rate.[8]

In order to qualify for enhanced federal funding under the 1980 law, states electing to develop systems were required to submit advance planning documents (APD) every year to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).[9] The system had to: (1) be statewide, (2) perform six core functions (including case initiation, case management, financial management, enforcement, reporting, and security and privacy), and (3) link to the AFDC system.[10]

Most states began developing child support systems in the early and mid-1980s. For the most part, early federal efforts to persuade states to adopt a national computer model failed.[11] By 1986, HHS had helped fund over 300 separate state and local automated child support systems.[12] Many of these systems were stand-alone systems installed in large counties and courts, while others were statewide systems designed to perform some, but not all, program functions.

In 1986, HHS established a controversial policy requiring states seeking enhanced federal funding to transfer existing automated systems from other states rather than to develop new systems. Under the new policy, states that wanted to design their own system had to convince HHS that it was not feasible to transfer in another state's system. The transfer policy caused many states to redirect their system development. At the time, state views varied on the transfer policy, with some states crediting the policy with their ability to make progress, while other states cited the policy as a major reason for lack of progress. In 1994, HHS agreed to drop its transfer policy.[13]

State systems development was extensive during the mid- and late 1980s. By 1988, thirty-nine states and territories were in the process of developing statewide automated systems. By 1992, states had expended about $324 million in federal and state dollars at the enhanced matching rate for statewide systems.[14] In addition, states had expended about $816 million in federal and state dollars at the regular rate to develop more limited systems and for operational costs.[15] While the majority of states had put one or more state systems in place by 1992, only eleven states obtained certification under the 1980 law.[16]

In 1988, Congress adopted the Family Support Act (FSA),[17] making it mandatory for states to computerize their child support programs and enacting other major policy changes.[18] Under the FSA, states were required to have a certified computer system by October 1, 1995. States without a pre-FSA certified system were required to submit an APD to the federal agency by October 1, 1991. About half of the states with existing state systems planned to enhance their systems to conform to FSA requirements, while the other half planned to replace their systems.[19] Federal rules implementing the FSA requirements were issued in October 1992 and a revised certification guide was published in June 1993.[20] The certification requirements specified in the revised guide are summarized in the next section of this paper.

In September 1995, Congress extended the certification deadline (but not the authorization for enhanced federal funding) to October 1, 1997 when only one state system was certified by the original deadline.[21] However, Congress did not renew its authorization for 90% federal funding. Currently, state system expenditures made after September 1995 can only be federally reimbursed at the regular 66% rate, although proposed welfare legislation pending in Congress would extend 90% funding to October 1, 1997.

To date, seven states have certified or conditionally certified systems under the FSA.[22] Sixteen states reported that they expect to be certified in 1996, while twenty-three states reported that they do not expect to be certified until 1997, according to a recent survey of states conducted by the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support (ACES).[23] Federal and state expenditures to develop statewide automated systems in compliance with the Family Support Act amounted to about $607 million in enhanced dollars for the period 1993 through June 1996. In addition, states expended about $499 million in regular federal and state dollars for pay for operational and other systems-related costs during the same period.[24]

In general, states that have experienced the most difficulty in developing statewide computer systems include (1) large states, (2) states with county-administered (rather than centralized) programs, (3) states which set and enforce orders through their court system (rather than administratively), (4) states with troubled contractor relationships, (5) states with inadequate or diffuse planning processes, and (6) states with insufficient funding appropriated by their state legislatures. While computerization has helped consolidate and standardize child support operations in some states, a fragmented program structure has seriously interfered with computer development in many other states.

What Is the Computer Supposed to Do?

In order to meet FSA certification requirements, state child support systems must meet several general requirements and perform eight separate functions.[25] These specifications are described in the federal certification guide.[26] According to HHS, the level of automation specified in the certification guide "represents the level that is needed to manage an environment where caseloads are large, resources are limited and demands for services are continuing to increase."[27] A major theme of the certification requirements is to reduce case processing time by limiting worker intervention whenever possible and cost-efficient.[28]

In general, state systems:

  • Must be statewide, meaning that it incorporates all political subdivisions, courts, and other agencies that provide child support enforcement services

  • Must be comprehensive, meaning that it is a fully automated system, performs all functional requirements within mandated time frames, and electronically interfaces with other federal and state agencies.

  • Must be operational, meaning that it maintains the case data necessary to manage every case in the IV-D system and can meet federal processing and reporting requirements.

  • Must meet the standards of efficiency and effectiveness, meaning that the system must improve program management and be cost-effective.

  • Must be integrated, meaning that the state operates only one system, all components are electronically linked, the same functions are not performed by different software, and data is entered only once.

In addition, state systems must perform eight functions in order to be certified. These mandatory functions include: (1) case initiation, (2) parent locate, (3) establishment, (4) enforcement, (5) case management, (6) financial management, (7) reporting, and (8) security and privacy. The required functions are described below.

When a state requests certification, HHS conducts a review and inspection of the system to determine if it meets FSA requirements. HHS has implemented an optional two-level certification process. " Level one" certification means that the computer can perform all eight functions in a pilot site. "Level two" certification means that the computer is functional

and fully operational statewide. HHS also conducts pre-pilot functional reviews upon state request.[29]

1. Case initiation.

The system must accept and process non-AFDC applications. Within 20 days of application, the system must automatically establish a case record, refer the case for processing, and notify the caseworker as soon as action is needed. It must maintain the date the application was requested, provided, and returned and must include information about fees.[30]

The system must automatically accept and process referrals from the AFDC agency. The system must automatically record the date the referral was received. It must accept paternity information, information on cooperation and good cause, and other child support-related information from the AFDC agency. Within 20 days of a referral, it must automatically establish a case record, refer the case for processing, and notify the caseworker when action is needed. It must note the date AFDC recipients were given information about their rights and responsibilities and other program information.[31]

The system must automatically accept and process referrals from the IV-E (foster care) agency.

The system must automatically record the referral date, identify and link two non-custodial parents to each child in foster care, and accept information about IV-E case status and payments. It must accept child support-related information. Within 20 days of application, it must automatically establish a case record, refer the case for processing, and notify the caseworker.

The system must automatically accept and process referrals from the Medicaid agency.

The system must automatically record the referral date. The system must ensure that all Medicaid referrals meet the definition of a IV-D case. It must accept information about cooperation and good cause and other child-support-related information referred by the Medicaid agency. Within 20 days of application, it must automatically establish a case

record, refer the case for processing, and notify the caseworker. It must note the date applicants received program information.

The system must automatically accept and process interstate referrals. The system must automatically receive and send information through CSENet.[32] The system must automatically send a response to the initiating agency. If the case can not be processed without further information, the system must automatically request information from the initiating state and notify the caseworker for follow-up action if no response is received. The system must set up a case record identifying the case as interstate and the initiating state. The state's central registry must be integrated into the statewide system.

The system must establish an automated case record for each case. The system must be able to identify and sort each case. The system must assign identifying numbers to each case and link cases to multiple non-custodial parents and obligations. It also must by able to sort cases by at least eight program categories (e.g,, AFDC, non-AFDC, non-AFDC Medicaid, non-IV-D), as well as by interstate status and by locate-only status. It must maintain information about parents and children. Information about non-custodial parents must include receipt of Food Stamps, Social Security, and other federal benefits.

2. Parent locate.

The system must electronically interface with locate sources. The system must obtain and verify information about the location and assets of the custodial or non-custodial parent. It must electronically interface with all appropriate locate sources (when feasible and cost-effective), including the Federal Parent Locate System (FPLS), U.S. Postal Service, state motor vehicle, employment security, tax, vital statistics, natural resources, and corrections agencies, and credit bureaus. It must automatically submit cases to automated locate sources and recycle them quarterly and as new information is received. If a locate agency is not automated, the system must prepare the documents to send manually. The system must forward the case for further processing, alert the caseworker if action is needed, and monitor the 75 day locate time frame. It must maintain a history of locate activities, and report on the number of cases submitted to each automated locate source and response times.

3. Establishment.

The system must automatically initiate and track paternity establishment. The system must monitor cases to ensure that paternity is established (or the putative father excluded) by the time the child is eighteen months old or within a year of successful service of process. Within ninety days of locating a putative father, the system must automatically initiate a paternity action, complete service of process, or document unsuccessful attempts to serve process. The system must automatically generate completed legal documents and notices and initiate service of process. It also must maintain information on IV-D cases when paternity is established outside of the IV-D agency.

The system must help establish support obligations. The system must monitor cases to ensure that service of process is complete, a support order is established, or unsuccessful attempts to serve process are documented within ninety days of locating the non-custodial parent or establishing paternity. It must automatically generate legal documents. It must initiate and re-initiate service of process. It must automatically calculate support orders based on the state's child support guidelines. It must initiate action to obtain a support order. If a support order petition is dismissed, it must automatically re-initiate action at an appropriate time. It must record all case activity. It must track compliance with expedited processing time frames.

The system must process information on existing support orders. It must maintain information on prior orders, guideline deviations, date and amount of order, medical support, arrearage, and frequency and method of payment. The system must be able to individually identify and link multiple orders, and identify obligations as voluntary, administrative, or court-ordered. The system must monitor and identify cases for review and modification.

The system must maintain information on medical support. The system must identify (1) welfare cases where the custodial parent lacks health insurance, but insurance is available to the non-custodial parent at a reasonable cost, and (2) non-AFDC cases requesting medical support services. The system must also identify cases where there is a high potential for obtaining medical support. It must include medical support provisions in legal documents and generate notices. It must interface electronically with the Medicaid agency. It must monitor lapses in insurance coverage.

4. Enforcement.

The system must monitor compliance with support orders. The system must automatically monitor compliance with support orders. It must identify cases where there is a failure to comply and initiate appropriate enforcement action. It must enforce spousal and medical support obligations. Except for income withholding cases, the system must automatically bill cases with obligations. It must track and maintain a record of enforcement activities and the dates the non-custodial parent fails to make payments. The system must automatically generate delinquency reports.

The system must support income withholding activities. The system must automatically initiate immediate income withholding for IV-D support orders established or modified after November 1, 1990.[33] For older cases, the system must automatically initiate income withholding procedures on the same day that the non-custodial parent falls one month behind in support payments. The system must provide IV-D caseworkers with on-line access to automated sources of employer and wage information maintained by the state, either by establishing an electronic link or obtaining an abstract and placing it on-line. The system must automatically generate notices, employer withholding orders, and employer remittance forms. It must offer employers the option of using Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It must monitor employer compliance. It must automatically allocate amounts received by withholding when there is more than one obligation.

The system must initiate enforcement actions. The system must automatically identify cases with delinquencies and initiate appropriate actions for tax refund offsets, IRS full collection, unemployment compensation intercepts, real and personal property liens and bond actions, and credit bureau reporting. It must automatically interface with automated tax, employment security, property title, and credit bureau agencies. It must automatically notify the caseworker when an enforcement action is not effective. It must automatically track time periods and periodically re-initiate actions. It must automatically verify identifying information and generate legal documents and notices.

5. Case management.

The system must automatically direct cases to the appropriate activity. When the case is initiated, the system must identify the initial processing function required (i.e., locate, paternity establishment, enforcement) and initiate action on the case. After each function is completed, the system must automatically direct the case to the next function and initiate action. The system must track the case and compliance with processing time standards. Incoming interstate cases must be automatically referred to the state parent locator system or processing function within ten working days.

The system must keep a comprehensive case history. The system must maintain all identifying information, events and actions in an automated case file. It must record all documents generated for the case, telephone calls, visits, and actions taken outside of the IV-D system. It must summarize all automated interface activities. It must maintain one year's case history on-line (previous history must be maintained in an accessible, automated manner).

The system must provide automated daily work lists. The system must automatically generate daily on-line reports for the caseworker and at the unit level, including aging cases, newly assigned cases, cases needing priority review, follow-up case reviews or actions manually requested by IV-D staff or automatically triggered by the system, and cases with actions to be taken automatically. When caseworker action is needed, the system must include a reminder or "tickler" for every time frame. If a caseworker has multiple options for case action, the system must identify any default action if the caseworker does not act. All cases on the work list must include a case aging indicator.

The system must perform other case management functions. The system must monitor case activities and time frames. It must provide case status reports and notify the caseworker about significant events in the case. It must accept and process case updates from various sources, and electronically send updates and information affecting eligibility to the AFDC program and other public assistance programs.[34] It must initiate follow-up action to unanswered inquiries. It must check data validity and update all linked case records at the same time. The system must identify cases eligible for closure, generate advance notice, and allow for review. It must automatically support state case prioritization procedures and manage interstate cases.[35]

6. Financial management.

The system's accounting processes must be uniform statewide. The system must manage all financial information, maintain an audit trail for all transactions, perform all calculations relevant to the IV-D program, and document claims for federal reimbursement (FFP). It must document the distribution and use of incentive payments. It must maintain cost data on child support services and data on the efficiency and effectiveness of local operations. It must calculate and maintain information on arrearages and on unreimbursed public assistance.[36]

The system must automatically process payments. The system must be able to identify and track each payment, balance and post all transactions, record fees and costs (separately recording fees for genetic tests), maintain a payment history, and document direct payments made to an AFDC recipient. It must link payments to the individual case record. It must be able to accept EFT payments from employers.

The system must automatically distribute payments. The system must calculate the amount to be distributed to the parties, distribute the amounts in correct sequence, and keep a record. Except for federal and state tax refund offsets, it must first apply payments toward current support and apply the excess toward arrears. The system must apply tax refund offsets against arrears. It must recompute the distribution of all collections (including the $50 pass-through) when payments are made in the month due but received in a later month. The system must calculate federal, state, and local collection shares. It must correctly allocate amounts paid for fees and costs. It must inform the AFDC agency about the amount of collections received for each AFDC case within ten working days of the end of the month. It must generate monthly notices of assigned support to AFDC and former AFDC families[37] and generate advance notice to non-AFDC custodial parents regarding the distribution of tax offset amounts.

The system must disburse payments in a timely manner. The system must send amounts distributed to non-AFDC families within fifteen days of receipt.[38] For AFDC families, the system must send $50 pass-through payments within fifteen calendar days of the end of the month. In interstate cases, the system must disburse payments within fifteen days of receipt. It must forward medical support payments to the Medicaid agency and excess support payments to the IV-E (foster care) agency. It must send interstate collections to other states using EFT technology.

7. Reporting.

The system must generate management and financial reports. The system must produce reports for monitoring and evaluating program, unit, and employee performance. It must produce financial transaction reports. It must produce workload management reports on backlogs, workload allocation, and caseload tracking and aging. It must produce unit and caseworker daily work lists, case status reports, and error/edit reports.

The system must maintain all information required for federal reports and audits. This includes program and financial data needed for the OCSE-156, OCSE-158, OCSE-34, and OCSE 131 reports. The system must maintain statistical, financial, and case data for audit, including an automated history of all case processing activities to enable the OCSE to assess program performance and to determine if the state met program standards. It must generate a detailed case history for each case. The system should provide for dial-up off-site access by OCSE auditors.


8. Security and privacy.

The system must protect against security risks and privacy violations. The system must have risk assessment policies and procedures. It must be protected against unauthorized access through the use of passwords, restricted access, and identification of user changes to sensitive data. It must restrict IRS data. There must be systems backups.


How Are Child Support Computer Systems Funded?

Before October 1, 1995

Until October 1, 1995, two levels of federal funding were available for state child support systems:

  • Enhanced federal funding was available to states for planning, developing, and installing comprehensive statewide computers that met the certification requirements of the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980 and the Family Support Act of 1988.[39] If the system was approved for enhanced federal funding, the state could claim 90% federal reimbursement for expenditures.
  • Federal funding at the regular (or "applicable") matching rate was available to states for: (1) the costs associated with approved state and local child support systems that did not meet certification criteria, and (2) the operating costs of certified systems.[40] Under the regular matching rate, the federal government currently pays 66% of computer expenditures and the state pays 34%.

Examples of system costs that did not qualify for enhanced federal funding, but may have qualified for federal funding at the regular rate included separate county or court-based systems, personal computers used for word processing, and stand-alone new-hire registries operated by the IV-D agency. In addition, most operational costs for a statewide system are reimbursed the regular 66% rate once the system has been certified.

Examples of system costs that do not qualify for any federal reimbursement include costs incurred without an approved APD, and new-hire registries and other systems operated outside the IV-D agency. Traditionally, no federal funding has been made available for paternity registries operated by the state vital records agency.

In order to qualify for federal reimbursement at either the enhanced or regular matching rate, states had to have an approved Advance Planning Document ("APD").[41] Before beginning the project, states have to submit a planning APD. Once the planning APD is approved, states are required to submit an implementation APD. In addition, states must update the APD annually and as needed. States also have to obtain prior federal approval before entering into contracts and incurring expenditures. To qualify for enhanced funding, all expenditures and Requests for Proposal ("RFP"), contracts, and contract amendments must be federally approved.[42] To qualify for regular matching funds, expenditures, contracting documents, and project cost increases above a certain dollar threshold must be approved.[43] Proposed federal rules would increase these amounts to $5 million for competitive acquisitions and $1 million for sole source acquisitions. See 60 Fed. Reg. 37858 (July 24, 1995). [44]

States had to submit planning and implementation APDs by October 1, 1991 to obtain enhanced funding for the development of the statewide comprehensive automated system. The APD had to represent the state's only effort to develop a statewide system and had to show how the state would meet the statewide and functional requirements for certification. States were required to base the computer system on requirement analysis studies that included the program's mission, functions, organization, services, staffing levels, and constraints; an analysis of alternatives; and a cost-benefit analysis. The APD had to describe each component of the proposed system, detailing information flows, input data and output records and uses. The plans had to include a budget, an implementation plan, a development timetable, a backup plan in case of system failure, and a description of proposed hardware.[45]

After October 1, 1995

Federal authority to pay 90% enhanced reimbursement rates for statewide automated child support systems development expired on October 1, 1995. Currently, states still developing their statewide systems can only claim the regular 66% matching rate for expenditures made after the expiration date. Any funding previously approved by HHS at the enhanced rate, but not expended before October 1, 1995 will instead be paid at the regular rate. By May 1996, states were required to submit an APD update with a revised budget, completion schedule, and cost/benefit analysis based on the lower reimbursement rate.[46]

Although states must still satisfy prior approval requirements, HHS proposed new rules in July 1995 that would significantly increase the dollar thresholds for prior federal approval of computer expenditures matched at the 66% rate. The proposed rules also provide that if HHS has not acted within sixty days of receiving a state request for prior approval, the request would be "provisionally" deemed to have satisfied federal prior approval requirements.[47]

Under New Welfare Legislation

New welfare legislation would restore 90% enhanced federal funding until October 1, 1998 for states developing systems to comply with FSA requirements. The 90% funding for FSA systems development is limited to the amounts approved in state APDs submitted by September 30, 1995.

In addition, 80% enhanced funding would be made available between October 1, 1996 through October 1, 2001 for some of the new systems requirements imposed by the welfare legislation.

However, this funding is only available to meet the requirements of sections 454(16) and 454A. These requirements include: (1) developing and operating a statewide system meeting FSA certification requirements, (2) adding the case registry to the statewide system, (3) using the statewide automated system to order income withholding, monitor missed payments, and initiate enforcement in IV-D cases only, and (4) enhancing the statewide automated system to manage program funds, maintain federal reporting data, calculate performance indicators, and secure computer data.

Other systems development costs - including the costs of establishing a collection and disbursement unit, a new-hire registry, and a paternity registry in the state vital records agency - are not covered by the 80% reimbursement rate.

The availability of 80% funding is capped at $400 million and allocated to states based on caseload size and level of needed automation. Although the bill would authorize 80% funding for operational costs, the amount allocated to each state is unlikely to be sufficient to pay for both new systems requirements and the on-going operational costs of the state's certified FSA system.

What Would Welfare Reform Bring?

The child support provisions of new welfare legislation would have major implications for state child support systems. A chart of proposed provisions affecting state computer systems is attached. While the bill features several major enhancements to state computer systems, in fact nearly all of the provisions would require major or minor adaptations to state computers.

First, the legislation would require states to add several new data bases to the child support program, including a central case registry of IV-D cases and support orders established or modified in the state after October 1, 1998, a new-hire directory, a centralized unit to collect and disburse child support payments, and a registry of paternity orders and acknowledgments.

Second, the legislation would require states to add or enhance automated interfaces between the IV-D program and a variety of public and private entities. These interfaces are intended to improve the IV-D program's ability to locate non-custodial parents, to initiate enforcement actions, and to coordinate with state public assistance programs.

Third, the legislation would require states to increase their IV-D case management capacity, by imposing new data collection, data security, case monitoring, and case processing requirements.

Fourth, the legislation would require states to improve their ability to collect, calculate, and report performance measures.

Fifth, the legislation would require state automated systems to implement a range of new child support policies, including revised distribution rules, new paternity and cooperation policies, new non-custodial parent provisions, and expanded medical support requirements.

The new child support legislation includes a variety of new automated and legal tools designed to support state efforts to establish paternity, locate non-custodial parents, and enforce child support obligations. The legislation incorporates many of the "best practices" developed by states, including new-hire reporting, centralized collection and disbursement, and central filing of paternity records. The creation of national FPLS data bases, including a new-hire registry and case registry at the national level, is a major step toward improving interstate location of noncustodial parents.

Yet a major concern about the new legislation is that it builds on state automated systems that are not yet fully in place. Limited resources needed to implement fully-functional FSA systems will be diverted to new program and system requirements. While states with certified or nearly operational systems may be able to absorb new system changes, other states may fall further behind as they attempt to develop old and new systems concurrently. Indeed, the resource competition within the child support program will be overshadowed by the draw on resources needed to restructure the AFDC and other human services programs under the legislation. At the same time, state child support programs will be under increased pressure to obtain child support for welfare recipients facing welfare time limits.

Another concern is that the new data bases, intended to serve the "universal" population (and not just the IV-D caseload) will not be integrated into the statewide automated system, but instead will be housed in different agencies. For example, the new-hire registry may be housed in the state economic security or tax agency, the collection and disbursement unit may be operated by a private fiscal agent under contract with the state, and the paternity registry must be located in the birth records agency. While in fact these data bases may be more efficiently located outside of the IV-D agency, this may present state child support programs with difficult "linkage"and control problems.[48] Sections amending 42 U.S.C. 654(16) and 654A. [49]

Automation of the child support program is essential. Yet future costs for the continued development and maintenance of automated state systems could be considerable. New welfare measures, including state registries, expanded parent locate interfaces, and automated enforcement, are important steps but will put additional strains on state systems and resources.


1. In 1984, 15% of IV-D cases had collections, while in 1994, 18% of cases had collections. In 1984, $3.29 in support was collected for every dollar spent, while in 1994, $3.86 was collected for every dollar spent.

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  • 2. The House passed H.R. 3734 (as amended by H.R. 3829) on July 18, 1996. The Senate passed H.R. 3734 (as amended by S. 1956) on July 23, 1996. Only minor differences exist in the child support provisions of the House and Senate bills.

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  • 3. U.S. General Accounting Office, Child Support Enforcement: Families Could Benefit from Stronger Enforcement Program, GAO/HEHS-95-24 (Dec. 1994).

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  • 4. Authorized by the Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980, P.L. 96-178.

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  • 5. Enhanced federal funding was first authorized for Medicaid computer systems in 1972, for child support, AFDC, and Food Stamp systems in 1980, for JOBS in 1988, for child care systems in 1988 and 1990, and for child welfare services and foster care/ adoption assistance systems in 1993.

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  • 6. Sen. R. 96-408, 1980 U.S. CODE CONG. & AD. NEWS, 1346.

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  • 7. Authorized by the Child Support Enforcement Amendments of 1984, P.L. 98-378.

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  • 8. Regular matching rates for child support program expenditures were 75% in fiscal year 1980, 70% beginning in 1982, 68% beginning in 1988, and 66% beginning in 1990. 42 U.S.C. 655(a)(2).

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  • 9. 42 U.S.C. 652(d) and 654(16).

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  • 10. GAO, Child Support: State Progress in Developing Automated Enforcement Systems, GAO/HRD-89-10FS (1989). These system requirements were described in federal rules published in 1984 and in OCSE's Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States Seeking Enhanced Funding (rev. July 1987). Apparently, an earlier guide to enhanced systems funding was published in October 1981. See 49 Fed. Reg. 33255 (Aug. 22, 1984).

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  • 11. See 46 Fed. Reg. 47788 (Sept. 30, 1981); OCSE, Child Support Enforcement: Seventh Annual Report to Congress (for the period ending September 30, 1982). OCSE advanced two prototypes of a comprehensive, transferrable computer system called "Model I" and "Model II." Model I was for jurisdictions with smaller caseloads and Model II was for jurisdictions with larger caseloads.

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  • 12. GAO, Child Support: State Progress in Developing Automated Enforcement Systems, GAO/HRD-89-10FS (1989).

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  • 13. Id.

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  • 14. OCSE, Child Support Enforcement: Thirteenth Annual Report to Congress (for period ending Sept. 30, 1988); GAO, Child Support: State Progress in Developing Automated Enforcement Systems, GAO/HRD-89- 10FS (1989). Total federal and state expenditures at the enhanced rate were calculated by CLASP based on a GAO analysis of enhanced federal expenditures for the period 1984 through 1992. State dollars were calculated using a 10% matching rate. GAO, Automated Welfare Systems: Historical Costs and Projections, GAO/AIMD- 94-52FS (Feb. 1994).

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  • 15. Total federal and state expenditures at the regular rate were calculated by CLASP based on a GAO analysis of regular federal expenditures for the period 1984 through 1992. State dollars were calculated using a 32% state matching rate. GAO, Automated Welfare Systems: Historical Costs and Projections, GAO/AIMD-94- 52FS (Feb. 1994). According to OCSE data, only Guam and the Virgin Islands claimed zero systems funding in 1987 and 1988. See OCSE, Child Support Enforcement: Sixteenth Annual Report to Congress (for period ending September 30, 1991), Table 31.

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  • 16. The eleven states with pre-FSA certified systems included Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

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  • 17. P.L. 100-485.

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  • 18. These policies included mandatory child support guidelines, review and adjustment of orders, immediate income withholding, and genetic testing in paternity cases.

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  • 19. GAO, Automated Welfare Systems: Historical Costs and Projections, GAO/AIMD-94-52FS (Feb. 1994).

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  • 20. OCSE, Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States (rev. June 1993).

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  • 21. P.L. 104-35, signed into law on October 12, 1995.

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  • 22. Montana was conditionally certified before the original deadline in September 1994. Delaware, Georgia, Virginia and Washington were certified, and Delaware and Georgia conditionally certified, in February 1996. West Virginia was conditionally certified in June 1996 and Arizona in July 1996. Only two states (Virginia and Washington) have been fully certified to date.

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  • 23. Debbie Kline, Status of Automated Child Support Systems in the U.S., Association for Children for the Enforcement of Support, Inc.: Toledo, OH (June 1996). According to HHS, six states have pending certification ("level two") reviews, and three more state level two reviews are anticipated for FY 1996. See Office of State Systems (OSS) update posted on its World Wide Web home page on June 18, 1996,

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  • 24. Calculated by CLASP based on data in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Support Enforcement: Nineteenth Annual Report to Congress (for period ending September 30, 1994), Tables 30 and 29, and preceding annual reports. Amounts for 1995 and 1996 were calculated by using 1994 expenditures (the last year for which data is available), and subtracting all expenditures claimed by the five states certified before June 1996. The total understates spending in 1995 and 1996, because (1) the amounts assume that there was zero spending increase in 1995 and 1996, and (2) zero expenditures are attributed to the five states.

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  • 25. Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States (rev. June 1993). For additional explanation, see HHS, Automated Systems for Child Support Enforcement: A Guide for States: Questions and Answers Related to the Federal Child Support Enforcement Systems Certification Requirements ("Q & A") (undated, but currently posted on the World Wide Web at the address cited in footnote 23).

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  • 26. The following summary is based on the certification objectives and requirements listed in the guide, but is organized somewhat differently from the guide and does not include all specifications. For a more precise listing of each specification, refer to the guide and Q &A.

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  • 27. See Q & A.

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  • 28. See Q & A.

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  • 29. See 57 Fed. Reg. 46988, 46991 (Oct. 14, 1992).

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  • 30. Until an application is returned and a case opened, the state may maintain the dates that an application is requested and provided on the system, in a manual log, or other auditable manner, but once the case is opened, the information must be maintained on the system.

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  • 31. If the state does not yet have an certified AFDC computer system (FAMIS) and there is not an automated interface, the AFDC agency must send case information to the IV-D agency within two working days of determining eligibility or furnishing aid. The state also must establish procedures to ensure timely manual referrals if the IV-E and Medicaid agencies do not have automated interfaces. To meet certification requirements, the IV-D system must develop an electronic interface and be capable of receiving data if the corresponding agency or organization ever completes an interface. When other programs do not accept electronic transfer of required data from the IV-D agency, then the IV-D agency must use an alternative approach (such as sending a hard copy).

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  • 32. CSENet is a federally developed telecommunications network that serves as a conduit for interstate transmission of information. CSENet was installed in all states in a manual mode in 1992. In order to meet certification requirements, states must use CSENet.

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  • 33. Unless the support order indicates that the parties have signed an agreement for an alternative arrangement or there is good cause for not withholding.

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  • 34. If the IV-D system can not interface with the JOBS and transitional child care program through the IV-A agency, it must establish direct interfaces.

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  • 35. HHS proposes to delete current case prioritization rules in 45 C.F.R. 302.33. See 61 Fed. Reg. 2774 (January 29, 1996).

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  • 36. The system must maintain the AFDC grant amount, but it need not maintain the AFDC payment history.

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  • 37. Unless the state is granted a waiver under 45 C.F.R. 302.54(c)(1)(I) to issue a notice on a quarterly basis because the state uses a toll-free automated voice response system. Until October 1, 1995 (when the state was supposed to have a certified system), states could also request a waiver of the notice requirement when it did not have an automated system capable of generating monthly notices. HHS recently extended the October 1, 1995 expiration date to October 1, 1997. See HHS, Transmittal No. OCSE-AT-96-04 (Feb. 20, 1996).

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  • 38. If a family becomes ineligible for AFDC, the AFDC agency must notify the IV-D agency in sufficient time to allow the IV-D agency to automatically disburse collections for the months of ineligibility within the specified fifteen-day time period.

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  • 39. Enhanced federal funding also was available for approved alternative system configurations that do not conform to FSA requirements. An alternative system configuration includes separate automated or manual systems that are linked to a base system. A separate component could perform one or more of the mandatory functions, and could be located in a county or court. If a state develops an alternative system configuration, the state must obtain a waiver to qualify for enhanced federal funding. If approved, enhanced federal funding is available for the base system and linkages, but no federal funding is available for developing or making major changes to the separate components. 45 C.F.R. 307.5(e) and 307.30(a)(4); see 56 Fed. Reg. 22130, 22134 (May 14, 1991).

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  • 40. 45 C.F.R. 307.35.

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  • 41. The APD requirements for enhanced federal funding are prescribed in 45 C.F.R. 307.15. The APD requirements for federal funding at the regular matching rate also are addressed in 45 C.F.R. Part 95, subpart F.

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  • 42. 45 C.F.R. 95.611(a)(2).

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  • 43. To obtain reimbursement at the regular rate, any state purchase of computer equipment and services over $500,000 made under the states' competitive bidding rules (and over $100,000 if procured under non-competitive "sole source" rules) requires prior federal approval.

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  • 44. Most RFPs and contracts over $300,000, contract amendments over $100,000, and project cost increases of more that $300,000 or 10% of project costs, also need prior approval.

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  • 45. 45 C.F.R. 307.15.

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  • 46. See HHS, Transmittal No. OCSE-AT-96-04 (Feb. 20, 1996).

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  • 47. The proposed rules would increase the threshold for competitive acquisitions of computer equipment and services to $5 million ($1 million for sole source contracts), RFPs to $5 million, and contract amendments to $1

    million or time extensions of more than 120 days. See 60 Fed. Reg. 37858 (July 24, 1995).

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  • 48. These "universal" data bases are not limited to the IV-D caseload and the structure of the bill indicates that they are not intended to be integrated into the statewide automated system. These data bases are not included in the sections of the bill that describe statewide automated system requirements (amending 42 U.S.C. 654(16) and


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  • 49. In addition, they are not eligible for enhanced 80% enhanced funding.

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  • 50. Unless state law or constitutional amendment is required. If state laws must be enacted or amended, the effective date is the effective date of the state legislation or the first day of the first quarter after the close of the first regular legislative session held after enactment of PRWORA. If constitutional amendments must be adopted, states have one year after the effective date of the amendment, or five years after enactment of PRWORA, whichever is earlier. PRWORA was enacted August 22, 1996.

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  • 51. Provisions requiring enactment or amendment of state laws under 42 U.S.C. 666 become effective on October 1, 1996 or the effective date of the laws enacted by the state legislature, and must become effective no later than the first day of the first calendar quarter beginning after the close of the first regular session of the state legislature (with a grace period if a state constitutional amendment is required).

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  • 52. Effective on the date specified in the last column of this table, unless state law or constitutional amendment is required. If state laws must be enacted or amended, the effective date is the first day of the first quarter after the close of the first regular legislative session held after enactment of PRWORA. If constitutional amendments must be adopted, states have one year after the effective date of the amendment, or five years after enactment of PRWORA, whichever is earlier. PRWORA was enacted August 22, 1996.

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  • 53. Excludes state law changes, which must be effective on the effective date of the state legislation or the first day of the first quarter after the close of the first regular legislative session held after enactment of PRWORA.

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